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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Street Soul

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Apr
  • COMMENTS
Street Soul
Sounds like … smooth R&B crooners Anthony Hamilton, Ruben Studdard, and Mario Winans, with sporadic nods to '70s greats Marvin Gaye and Stevie WonderAt a glance … except for a couple of missteps, Pee Wee Callins presents an otherwise solid and credible R&B debut with enough soulfulness and old-school charm to appease more mature listenersTrack ListingIntroKeep Hope AliveJoy (feat. Big Sonny)SunshineBetter LifePartyI Need You (feat. Bobby Bishop)With YouSomedayI Choose LoveNew DayFreeFire (feat. Rob Hodge)Can Somebody

The name Beatmart has been around for a long time, whether referring to beatmeister Todd Collins's production company—a successful enterprise that brought us hot tracks from John Reuben, KJ-52, GRITS, and Out of Eden, among others—or to the not-so-successful record label that had a couple of false starts at its inception. Beatmart is now back with a vengeance with Street Soul, the inaugural offering from debut R&B/soul crooner Pee Wee Callins.

Former Gotee brother Todd Collins has always been a crusader for all types of urban music, so it's not surprising he gave Callins a wide range of soundtracks to sing along to. The vocalist shines the brightest when he's gliding atop '70s R&B, such as in the blissful "I Choose Love," a heavenly mid-tempo number that seems borrowed straight from Marvin Gaye's What's Going On vault. He also channels Stevie Wonder in the wonderful "Keep Hope Alive," a steady jam accented with subtle orchestration and funk guitars. But he's not all about nostalgia, sounding reassured in the more contemporary selections such as in the P. Diddy-styled "I Need You," the smooth rider "Free," and "Better Life," which sounds like Monica's "U Should've Known Better" sung with R. Kelly vocalizations.

Callins is not your typical R&B heartthrob, however, eschewing slinky pop ornaments and shallow sentimentalism in favor of themes of filial affection, redemption, and God-sanctioned love. He sounds best when he keeps it cool and refined, which would explain why the experiment falters a bit when the Collins/Callins duo tries its hand at lightheartedness in the embarrassingly corny "Party." Those, and the fact that Street Soul is perhaps a bit too soulful, are the only factors that deflate an otherwise fine debut, a breath of fresh air amidst the suburban excesses common in much of today's Christian music.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.


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